The Clouds

Aristophanes
Quotes

Important Quotations Explained

Quotes Important Quotations Explained

I was happy with my bees and my sheep and my olives. Then I married this city girl, the niece of Megacles, no less, very classy—a right Coesyra!

This quotation is spoken by the anti-hero Strepsiades at the opening of the play as he lies awake in bed worrying over his enormous debts. This quotation is part of the "prologue," or expository opening section of the play which provided the background necessary for the comedy to progress. Strepsiades has been bemoaning his current debts, all of which he explains are the result of having a young son, Pheidippides, who has a passion for horses, an expensive hobby akin to a modern-day zeal for antique cars. In this quotation, Strepsiades is explaining the origin of Pheidippides's expensive tastes: his mother, Strepsiades's wife, was a high-born "city girl" (I.i.41) who cultivated aristocratic pretensions for herself and her son. Strepsiades calls his wife "a right Coesyra" (I.i.41), a name he uses in The Clouds and his earlier play The Acharnians to suggest a notoriously wealthy woman. "Megacles" (I.i.41) likewise suggests wealth and prestige since a "Megacles" was the great- grandfather of the Athenian hero Pericles who presided over Athens in the fifth century BCE and brought Athens much prosperity and success.

Strepsiades explains how he himself, in contrast to his rich, urban wife, came from humble means, raised on a country farm among the "bees…sheep…and…olives" (I.i.41) of rural Greece. He recounts how, when Pheidippides was born, he and his wife clashed over everything regarding their infant son, from his name to his hobbies. His wife, for instance, wished to give him a "horsey" name, such as "Xanthippus" (I.i.41), "Charippus or Callipides" (I.i.41) and to fill his head with visions of "procession[s]…[and]..chariot[s]" (I.i.41). Strepsiades himself preferred to name his son after his grandfather "Pheidonides" (I.i.41) and to raise his son to live a happy, simple life among the plants and animals of the farm. While Strepsiades and his wife managed a happy compromise for their son's name, Pheidippides's personal preferences were undiluted replicas of his ritzy mother's preferences.

This quotation introduces the collision of city and country values that provide for the necessary tension and humor in The Clouds and many other of Aristophanes's plays such as The Acharnians and The Banqueters. In many of these plays, Aristophanes's sympathies are with the country people: they represent honesty and humility in opposition to the pretensions and excesses of the townsfolk. The city, being the seat of business and politics, could be easily lampooned as corrupt and dishonest. Nevertheless, it is clear that Aristophanes exploits both "types" and systems of values as "types": his city folk and country folk are caricatures of typified attitudes and are exploited as such for laughs.